Tags Posts tagged with "Omicron"


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By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Members of the community have been inquiring about how the courts have dealt with their calendars for personal injury cases caused mainly by motor vehicle accidents during more recent variants of COVID-19. Clients are naturally concerned about their health and the progress of their personal injury cases. 

Moreover, people who have gotten into various types of accidents while last year’s Omicron variant was raging wonder if they, or we, should be doing anything different. Finally, with the recent uptick in COVID-19 reported by the media, we are receiving additional inquiries of this nature over the summer. 

Just ‘how open’ were the courts before the Omicron variant became widespread?

Before the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus became prevalent, the courts in Suffolk County and throughout the state were beginning to “open up” and conduct “in person” appearances for conferences and other matters. 

Trials started when these appearances became more commonplace and seemingly conducted without danger to the court personnel, litigants, and lawyers. First, the court scheduled criminal trials in cases with incarcerated defendants, and then serious felony trials began in the fall of 2021. 

Next, the court started trying civil cases as a backlog of personal injury accident trials had developed. The judges throughout the state were encouraged to reduce the backlog, as it is well known that personal injury cases arising out of car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and medical malpractice usually settle only when a trial is about to begin. Therefore, the need to schedule trials became essential. 

What happened to trials that were scheduled before the Omicron variant became widespread? 

Just as civil trials for personal injury cases were beginning to be held with little or no noticeable spread of the virus, by the end of 2021, the Omicron variant hit New York State and most of the country. 

Several personal injury trials had been completed by jury verdict or settlement in Suffolk County; however, as 2022 began, the Omicron variant caused a pause in starting most civil personal injury trials. While a few such cases proceeded to trial while Omicron was spreading, the cases that involved several parties, such as multi-car accident matters, were postponed until the variant subsided.

What is the status of personal injury cases as of the Summer of 2023? 

Despite the emergence of the apparent new strain of COVID-19, the entire country clearly is enduring its spread. Whether it is a result of the vaccines, people developing immunity, or the availability of medications, most cases seem to be relatively mild. As a result, the courts are operating as they were in 2019, and trials are proceeding in virtually all personal injury cases. 

Needless to say, if you have a case pending or were involved in an accident that caused personal injury, be sure to keep in touch with your lawyer or consult with an attorney if you haven’t done so already, as no one can predict how new variants of the virus will evolve. 

According to epidemiologist Nathan Grubaugh of Yale University, “Delta was never going to be the last variant—and Omicron is not going to be the last one, as long as there is a COVID-19 outbreak somewhere in the world, there is going to be something new that emerges.” 

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.

Many doctors are suggesting people learn to live with the virus and begin returning to usual activities such as going to the movies. Photo from Pixabay

Dr. Gregson Pigott went to the movies this week.

While the activity would be considered mundane in 2019, the decision to go to the theater to catch a flick is yet another example of how local doctors, or, in this case, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, is practicing what he preaches.

“We need to learn to live with the virus,” said Pigott, who has also been to a few Brooklyn Nets basketball games. Pigott, who is not using a mask except in situations where it is required, such as on a plane or on public transit, suggested people are “trying to resume life as it was pre-COVID.”

While the percentage of positive tests has risen, the numbers haven’t raised any alarm bells.

The percentage of COVID positive tests increased to a seven-day average of 2.6% as of April 2, according to figures from the New York State Department of Health.

That figure is higher than it had been in the weeks prior, when the percentage dipped below 2%.

“I certainly expected this,” Dr. Sean Clousten, associate professor of Public Health at Stony Brook University explained in an email. “I suspect this increase is due to unmasking at public schools because many kids who are infected are asymptomatic or the symptoms are different.”

Pigott said the current symptoms for the newer variant of omicron, called BA.2, which is becoming the dominant strain across the country and through much of the world, includes stuffy noses, scratchy throat and a slight cough.

Clousten added that the symptoms can also appear more like a bad stomach bug.

Second booster

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved a second booster for people over 50 and for those who are immunocompromised and who had a first booster more than four months ago.

Pigott said he would urge people who are over 65 or those who are immunocompromised to consider getting another jab.

“Most of the general population is fine with the three-shot regimen,” Pigott said. “Your body will recognize any kind of COVID infection and deal with it quickly.”

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, indicated in an email that Stony Brook has been “advocating for switching vaccines.”

Switching vaccines could mean triggering a different response to the shot for the second booster, Nachman added.

Data about a second booster shows that the shot provides “good protection” against serious COVID, Nachman said. “Will it protect against any infection (meaning you might get a runny nose, cough or upper respiratory infection)? Not really.”

Nachman urged people to consult with their primary care doctor to decide whether to take a booster. What people are doing and where they are going can and should affect that decision.

Finally, daily activities such as going back to a crowded office or starting to take New York City transit could be “excellent reasons” to get a booster, she said.

Nachman plans to get a booster, although she is working on the best timing for another shot.

“Before I travel abroad is key to making sure I have my booster and am protected,” Nachman added.


Nachman is encouraged that people are returning to in-person conferences and other activities.

“It will be great to have people starting to get back to routine living, and that means being with other people,” she explained in an email.

She urged people to stay at home if they don’t feel well.

“Now is not the time to push to go to that meeting or get together with extended family, since you might just be responsible for getting someone else sick,” she explained.

She suggested people should be patient and understanding of others who choose to wear masks or continue to practice social distancing.

“Don’t shame anyone who is wearing a mask,” Nachman advised. “If that is what it takes to get them together with you in public, go for it.”

In another sign of a return to a pre-pandemic life, Pigott suggested that the Health Department was planning to direct more resources to tracking illnesses like Lyme disease.

Chart shows COVID-19 hospitalizations during the three waves. Image from the New York State Department of Health website


The dramatic and steep rise in positive infections caused by the ubiquitous omicron mutant of the original COVID-19 strain is declining almost as rapidly as it climbed.

As of Tuesday, Jan. 25, the seven-day average for the percentage of people who tested positive for COVID in Suffolk County stood at 12%, which is well below the 25.9% for the same seven-day average who tested positive just two weeks earlier, according to figures from the New York State Department of Health.

Those numbers, which have been declining on a daily basis, are likely to fall even further, experts said.

“The omicron wave appears to have crested in Suffolk County and New York State, but not in other parts of the country,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, wrote in an email.

Public health officials attribute the welcome decline to several factors, including the increasing use of boosters, the adherence to mask guidelines and the reduction in travel and group gatherings.

“The numbers will decline slowly and steadily from the teens to single digits,” said Dr. Sunil Dhuper, chief medical officer at Port Jefferson’s St. Charles Hospital.

Sean Clouston, associate professor in the Program in Public Health and the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, added in an email that the “decline appears real and the timing suggest that the holiday period was, again, the main driving factor in the higher rates. We are likely on the other side of this wave.”

The omicron variant, which has involved milder symptoms for many of those infected, has also resulted in fewer hospitalizations.

The increase in hospitalizations is “not proportionate to the rise in cases” Pigott explained. “Our hospitals were overwhelmed when SARS-CoV-2 first hit our area [in 2020]. That has not been the case for the delta wave or the omicron wave.”

Indeed, the increase in the percentage of people who are vaccinated and boosted has helped reduce the need for emergency medical services at hospitals.

Among fully vaccinated people in the state of New York, 0.23% of the population 12 and over has been hospitalized, according to the New York State Department of Health.

That trend also holds true in Suffolk County area hospitals, public health officials said.

“We are seeing significantly reduced number of adults admitted with COVID who have had vaccines and especially those who had vaccines plus boosters,” Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, explained in an email. “We suspect that the booster augments your initial immune response, lasting at least six months.”

While vaccines and boosters help prevent hospitalizations, they do not ward off all potential upper respiratory infections, Nachman added. Getting a primary series and a booster is “critical” to reducing the risk of more significant health effects from any potential infection.

The age range of people who are hospitalized has decreased, particularly during the third wave. In the first exposure to the Wuhan strain, a majority of those who needed critical medical care were over 65, particularly before the vaccine was available.

During the omicron wave, however, there is a “noticeable shift between the ages of 18 to 49,” Dhuper said. While the proportion of people as a whole in this group may be lower, in part because people in this age range may not have as many underlying medical conditions, the total number hospitalized is still higher because of the broader spread of the virus.

People in that younger age bracket are “the major shift,” Dhuper said.

The infectiousness of omicron also created a strain on hospitals, as health care workers, even those who were asymptomatic or had minor symptoms, were testing positive.

“We had never seen the number of staff members that were out during the first or second wave,” Dhuper said. Even though the number of people hospitalized wasn’t as high, the overall health care workers available to help care for the population “really stressed our system.”

In the prior waves of the pandemic, the Catholic hospitals were able to do load balancing, in which they shifted patients to hospitals that had the bed space and health care workers.

Toward the latter half of the omicron wave, such maneuvers weren’t as easy to manage in part because of the staff shortages caused by positive tests.

Discharging people earlier and using effective but limited supply monoclonal antibody treatments for eligible patients that reduce the severity of symptoms helped reduce the strain on the system, Dhuper added.

In terms of protecting the population, Dhuper urged residents to consider the benefit of vaccines and boosters.

“The majority of patients hospitalized in the intensive care unit are unvaccinated,” Dhuper said.

The rate of people who were unvaccinated and hospitalized with COVID-19 in the week ending on Dec. 11, which was the highest figure for 2021, was 91.1 per 100,000 people in the population, compared with 4.1 per 100,000 among the vaccinated, according to the New York State Department of Health.

“Those are amazing numbers in terms of the role of vaccines and how it’s protecting people from getting hospitalized and dying,” Dhuper said.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As the year draws to a close, I think of the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” That would seem an apt description of the times we are living through today. Why do I say that? Let me count the ways.

For one, we have been tricked by the coronavirus. As spring faded into summer this year, we thought the pandemic was ebbing. We gathered in groups again, even without masks, visited relatives, returned to restaurants, went on vacations. Surprise! By the end of October, the virus started making itself felt again, by November, it was led by the new variant, Omicron, and now it commands the front page of newspapers and the top of the network and cable newscasts.

Yes, we have made impressive progress with vaccines and precautions, but society is still in the grip of the disease, still with some 30 percent of the population unvaccinated, still with those refusing to don masks, and now lined up not for inoculating but for testing. Testing and boosters are the new battle cry. Just as our grandparents, who were living through it, didn’t know when WWII would end, so we who are at war with the virus don’t know when the pandemic will fade into just another annoying wintertime contagion.

For another unprecedented way in recent memory that times are interesting, we have a country so divided and vehemently at odds that neighbors, friends and family members are afraid to talk politics with each other. It is such a contrast with the 9/11 era, when we all held doors open for each other, flew the American flag together and identified as one nation. “Democracy is at risk” is the new battle cry. And the threat of political violence and random shootings simmers just beneath the surface.

Meanwhile, worthy issues involving any sort of social safety net and how to provide money for them, like pre-school education and acceptable child care enabling parents to work, lie undebated in a symbolically divided Congress. It’s no wonder that the national birthrate for this past year is the lowest since 1979. That’s not just due to the pandemic but has been a trend for the last six years.

Climate change is another subject that has driven itself to top of mind this past year. Fires, the likes of which never before seen, also floods, tornadoes and melting ice caps have changed the face of the nation and have killed many residents.

And then there is racism, the shadow that has always loomed over the United States since its inception and has burst forth to claim attention across the country, spawning marches and protests. Is it better for bigotry to come out of the woodwork and be viewed in all its aspects in the clear light of day? Perhaps that is a necessary step for it to be ultimately eradicated. Until then, the atmosphere is bitter with recriminations.

There are some bright spots. Although the possibility of spiraling inflation has lately been a concern, unemployment is decidedly low and the economy has been growing. So has the stock market, while not the economy, is nonetheless a telltale of how their financial standing is perceived by residents. Stimulative monetary policy on the part of the Federal Reserve and equally generous fiscal action by the administrations of both presidents and Congress have kept civil unrest at bay. Savings rates are at a high. And the kinks in the supply chain, although most apparent now with the gift-giving demands of the holidays, will eventually be straightened out.

Furthermore, Dec. 21 is one of my favorite days because it brings with it the longest night of the year. After that, each day has a bit more light. So I hope for whatever darkness we are presently living through to lift, and I am optimistic that it will.

Until the new year, wishing you all healthy holidays filled with devotion and love.